SALEM, OR (KPTV) – The Oregon Senate unanimously passed House Bill 2168 on Tuesday, which will make Juneteenth an official holiday in Oregon.
Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, and Freedom Day, is the oldest nationally celebrated holiday that honors the freedom of enslaved people in the United States.
The bill's passing also acknowledges Oregon's racist roots and celebrates the contributions made by Black Americans in the face of inequity and systemic oppression.
"The Emancipation Proclamation news arrived in waves to the enslaved Black women and men of my family," said Senator Lew Frederick (D-N/NE Portland), who carried House Bill 2168. "Family stories say, 'joy was the first emotion and next skepticism.'"
On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and read General Order Number 3, which required the immediate freedom of more than 250,000 enslaved African Americans in Texas. Union troops marched throughout Galveston to spread the word that all slaves were free.
In Oregon, the Peoples family was well known for their effort to ensure Juneteenth is observed.
"Miss Clara Peoples is foundational to Oregon, her family is the reason we have unofficially observed this holiday, and the Peoples have remained central in framing the expectation of a more equitable tomorrow," said Senator Frederick.
"Juneteenth is not the date all slaves were freed. Juneteenth is not the date that Black Americans, or Black Oregonians, were guaranteed comfort, relief or safety," said Senator Frederick. "Also, Juneteenth was a step forward and a marker of hope, one we must continue to build upon. This official holiday will recognize that the people of Oregon, despite our past, can take the veil of ignorance away, and each year choose to have hope – on Juneteenth and every day thereafter."
Oregon will officially begin observing Juneteenth as a holiday starting June 19, 2022.